Printing With A Purpose
After a volunteer trip to Haiti in 2009, Jeremy Carroll was haunted by what he had seen: countless children without access to clean water, food, shelter, or education, living in extreme poverty. From home, he felt powerless to help with their overwhelming needs, but then he came up with a concept: Carroll and his wife, Krista, would start a new kind of printing company.
Called Print 4 Change, the Minneapolis-based business is growing rapidly, offering a full range of print services to clients across the country. But instead of keeping all of its profits, the company donates at least 50 percent to help people around the world. Carroll built on his career in the printing industry, creating a model of social entrepreneurship so that Print 4 Change could do well by doing good.
“We thought that by positioning our company a little bit differently, we’d be able to create a sustainable engine to empower people living in poverty,” says Carroll, who is senior vice president. “I knew we could provide a service based on price, timing, quality, and environmental factors, and at the same time change the lives of people living in poverty through access to clean water, education, parks, food, and shelter.”
But the company didn’t take off according to the initial plan. In 2009, the Carrolls started pitching Print 4 Change as a company with a deep focus on philanthropy, but that message didn’t really connect with potential clients. After six months, the Carrolls started marketing the company’s ability to deliver a great product on time and on budget—with giving back being a side benefit. From that point on, they had a hit.
In 2010, Print 4 Change reported $2 million in revenue and gave away more than $50,000 to charitable causes. The company grew to $9.4 million in sales in 2011, donating $250,000. This year, Carroll estimates the company will bring in $15 million in business and donate $500,000—far exceeding his initial goal to hit $5 million in sales within five years. Carroll says the sums donated in each of the past few years actually represent more than 50 percent of profits, and his new goal is to be able to give away $1 million by 2014.
Print 4 Change has 17 employees, two of whom work at the company’s second office in New York, and it’s building a roster of loyal clients who back its mission, message, and print work. “I think they work with us because we’re great to work with and we provide excellent service and an excellent product,” Carroll notes. “If we were just doing business based on our social mission, we wouldn’t be doing very much business.”
Minneapolis-based media and marketing firm Haberman has been a Print 4 Change client since 2010 and has hired the company to handle numerous printing projects, including business cards, brochures, and T-shirts.
After first learning about Print 4 Change, co-founder Sarah Bell Haberman was so enthused about its mix of business and philanthropy that she asked the Carrolls to speak to her employees about the Print 4 Change business model. Haberman hired the company soon after that meeting, choosing it because it shares many of the firm’s principles.
“I immediately connected with Jeremy Carroll when I first met him and knew he was a kindred spirit,” says Haberman. “We at Haberman believe in his business model, share the same passion for making a difference in the world, and respect his printing expertise. It’s inspiring to do business with partners who share the same values.”
The Carrolls run a highly efficient business, keeping Print 4 Change nimble by not owning its own equipment. That way, the company can partner with vendors based on their strengths and specialties instead of being bound to one particular format or style. It specializes in all manner of print projects, from business cards and collateral to retail signage.
“This gives us more flexibility, and our capabilities become limitless,” says Carroll. “We provide a one-stop-shop, so if they need printed items, retail fixtures, and plastic molds, they don’t have to go to three shops. We can be their point of contact and focus on their own business.”
Print 4 Change partners with its clients on philanthropy, too. The company lets customers provide guidance about which projects it should direct its profits toward. For example, it recently helped build a well in Africa because one client was interested in a project there. Customers also frequently accompany Print 4 Change teams that volunteer abroad several times a year so that they can see the giving in action—and even pitch in.
The company supports existing organizations on the ground, including Healing Haiti, Charity: Water, and a micro-lending organization called Opportunity International. One philanthropic project involved Print 4 Change paying the rent for a school in Titanyen, Haiti, after its building was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake; the company also supports an orphanage for 42 children in that area.
In a short amount of time, Carroll has begun fulfilling his dream to make a difference while still running a business, offering a service, and supporting his family. “Really, this has shown me that when we work together, anything is possible,” he adds.
“It all goes back to a needs alignment. My clients have needs for printing, and the people in poverty need food, water, shelter, and education. We see ourselves as a conduit to deliver great products and celebrate the success of each project by empowering others. As we build our client base, that engine to empower people gets bigger and bigger and bigger.”